At least he’s back in the right ZIP code.
But the chef who opened Charlie’s L’Etoile Verte restaurant 34 years ago still faces a long slog of grueling rehabilitation if he is ever to walk again after contracting a mysterious spinal infection.
In June he was in the neurological intensive care unit at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, getting his oxygen and food through tubes.
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And then he spent two months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. His wife, Nancy, who owns the Eggs ‘N’ Tricities shop in Bluffton, called it a rehab “boot camp” where patients make great progress.
For the past two weeks, Golson has been back in Bluffton, where he celebrated his 69th birthday with grilled steak, shrimp, a giant scollop and a birthday cake from The French Bakery on Hilton Head — a feast brought in by his children, Palmer and Margaret, who are running the restaurant.
That’s major progress for a man whose lips tasted only an occasional piece of ice for weeks on end as his body struggled and he dropped more than 75 pounds.
Blood work shows that the infection is gone, Nancy said, though he still takes a preventive dose of antibiotics. They do not know how he got the infection.
Now he’s going to have to learn to walk again. It could take at least a year.
Their home on Myrtle Island, circa 1919, is being remodeled to accommodate Charlie when he finally gets home, perhaps in January.
“He’s cheerful,” Nancy said. “He’s optimistic. He says, ‘I’m going to walk. I can do this.’ ”
This week, he hit a new milestone when he lifted his foot. And he’s able to sit up on his own, on a chair or table.
His sense of humor never left.
After he went to take communion at the Bluffton rehabilitative center, he told Nancy, “I think I was the only one alive.”
When he “graduated” from the Shepherd Center, the staff gave him certificates for “most likely to brighten your day,” “most likely to make you laugh,” and “most likely to con his way out of physical therapy.”
While there, he had to do an exercise to strengthen the thought process and move around with different objects in hand. He made a chocolate mousse.
“They all adored Charlie,” Nancy said.
When I visited him this week, I asked what he wanted to tell the world.
“I’m damn close to walking,” he said, “and if I can’t walk I’m coming back to cook in the wheelchair.”